Book Reviews

Book review: Playing Nice, by J.P. Delaney

Playing Nice, by J.P. Delaney

Publication: Ballantine Books; July 28, 2020

playing niceAbout: Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son—he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again.

The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents—or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.

They are done playing nice.

*My Review*

You know how some novels are really slow to start and you feel like it’s never going to get to any action? That is definitely not the case in Playing Nice. Very quickly into the book, it comes to light that a few years earlier, two children that were in the NICU were switched. Pete and Maddie have been raising Theo, while Miles and Lucy have been raising David. Each set of parents is obviously shocked and upset that they have been raising someone else’s child, however, they all appear to be very polite and amicable while trying to learn what to do next as far as a lawsuit against the hospital and how to best be a part of each others lives.

So, I loved Pete in this novel, but every polite and accommodating thing that he did drove me out of my mind. He was too nice and truthfully, somewhat of a pushover the entire time. Then there’s Maddie. She is one of the least likable characters that I have read in quite some time. She didn’t appear to want to be a mother, she seemed disengaged from her family life, and also seemed completely indifferent to Pete. I guess there was somewhat of an explanation when she realized that Theo was not her son, but I still felt her character to be very cold and flat. Nevertheless, what really drove the plot of this novel was the decisions that Pete and Maddie made from the very beginning. 

It’s obvious in the beginning that things aren’t going to stay so organized and nice between these two families. Well, it’s obvious to the reader. But Pete and Maddie made so many bad decisions, let Miles run all over them, and at times, made me question if they were capable of raising either of the boys. As a parent, I know that I found myself reflecting on my parenting style, including successes and mistakes while reading this. Granted my children are adults now, but I was still reminded of times that I completely rocked as a mother and those times that I wish I had a do-over. Pete certainly appeared to be the better parent in this novel, but things were so fast-paced and changed so quickly that as soon as I wrapped my brain about what was happening, there was something entirely different going on. 

Playing Nice is engaging psychological fiction that grabbed my interest from the beginning. There were times throughout the novel when either Pete or Maddie were flashing back to earlier moments between them that I felt things begin to drag along, but otherwise, I was very invested in the resolution of this novel. I have to say that there were a few key issues that weren’t resolved in the ending (which I found odd), but otherwise, the ending was surprising and satisfying at once. 

This was a 4 star read for me. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.


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